From the very beginning of the series, Naruto was cast as an underdog story and the protagonist was introduced as a failure relative to his peers. Though it seems like Naruto is fighting an uphill battle, this line of thought is called into question by Neji who asserts that people cannot truly escape their fate. While Naruto tries to deny this claim, his denial has almost no weight behind it when looking at the story itself.

The very chapter Naruto is introduced, readers are shown that he is an outcast and looked down upon by the majority of his peers and village not only because he acts out but also due to the demonic Nine-Tailed Fox sealed within him. In their initial fight in the Chunin Exams, Neji believes that because Naruto was seemingly born into the life of being an outcast that he was destined to be an outcast and a failure forever. Neji compares his destiny to die for the Main Family to Naruto’s destiny as a failure and states that these fates were inescapable from the moment they were born. Though Naruto defeats Neji in this encounter with the help of the Nine-Tails, there are several plot points that develop later that prove Neji was right- most notably his own death.

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Inevitably, Neji does end up dying for the Main Family as his death was to protect Hinata from wood shrapnel thrown by the Ten-Tails. This scene can be read as a turn of heart moment for Neji since he previously hated Hinata and her status as part of the Main Family but its emotional and shock value belies the sad truth to his death. Within the same battle, Naruto is revealed to be the reincarnation of Ashura, the son of the “God of Shinobi” and one of the most powerful fighters to have ever lived. Naruto’s status as an “underdog” was always questionable since his own power was sealed away at birth and the main reason the villagers were scared of him was because of the Nine-Tails’ immense power. Naruto was never inherently the weakest ninja either since his own power was sealed away shortly after his birth. On top of that, Jiraiya and a few others refer to Naruto as the Child of Prophecy, someone destined to bring peace to the world.

With all that in mind, it seems like Neji was right after all. In the world of Naruto, fate seems predetermined especially with the introduction of reincarnations and prophecies. Naruto was never fated to be a failure, in fact, it seems like he was destined to be a great hero to begin with. Neji on the other hand believed he was destined to die for the Main Family just like his father, and he was completely right. This marked a major turn in the themes of Naruto. What was a series about the values of hard work over natural talent turned into a series about people with inescapable destinies.

While destiny is a fine theme and has worked in plenty of other stories, it is completely incongruous with the series's main messages and themes up until that point. Narutomay seem like an underdog story on the surface but Neji’s death and Ashura’s reincarnation prove that Neji’s philosophy was right all along.

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